SermonIndex Audio Sermons
Promoting Genuine Biblical Revival.
Looking for free sermon messages?
Sermon Podcast | Audio | Video

SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : I.--Dogmatic.

Basil Letters And Select Works by Basil

I.--Dogmatic.

I. (i) Against Eunomius. The work under this title comprises five books, the first three generally accepted as genuine, the last two sometimes regarded as doubtful. Gregory of Nazianzus, Jerome, and Theodoret all testify to Basil's having written against Eunomius, but do not specify the number of books. Books IV. and V. are accepted by Bellarmine, Du Pin, Tillemont, and Ceillier, mainly on the authority of the edict of Justinian against the Three Chapters (Mansi ix., 552), the Council of Seville (Mansi x., 566) and the Council of Florence (Hardouin ix., 200). Maran (Vit. Bas. xliii.) speaks rather doubtfully. Böhringer describes them as of suspicious character, alike on grounds of style, and of their absence from some mss. They may possibly be notes on the controversy in general, and not immediately directed against Eunomius. Fessler's conclusion is |Major tamen eruditorum pars eos etiam genuinos esse censet.|

The year 364 is assigned for the date of the publication of the three books. At that time Basil sent them with a few words of half ironical depreciation to Leontius the sophist. He was now about thirty-four years of age, and describes himself as hitherto inexperienced in such a kind of composition. Eunomius, like his illustrious opponent, was a Cappadocian. Emulous of the notoriety achieved by Aetius the Anomoean, and urged on by Secundus of Ptolemais, an intimate associate of Aetius, he went to Alexandria about 356 and resided there for two years as Aetius' admiring pupil and secretary. In 358 he accompanied Aetius to Antioch, and took a prominent part in the assertion of the extreme doctrines which revolted the more moderate Semiarians. He was selected as the champion of the advanced blasphemers, made himself consequently obnoxious to Constantius, and was apprehended and relegated to Migde in Phrygia. At the same time Eudoxius withdrew for a while into Armenia, his native province, but ere long was restored to the favour of the fickle Constantius, and was appointed to the see of Constantinople in 359. Eunomius now was for overthrowing Aetius, and removing whatever obstacles stood between him and promotion, and, by the influence of Eudoxius, was nominated to the see of Cyzicus, vacant by the deposition of Eleusius. Here for a while he temporized, but ere long displayed his true sentiments. To answer for this he was summoned to Constantinople by Constantius, and, in his absence, condemned and deposed. Now he became more marked than ever in his assertion of the most extreme Arianism, and the advanced party were henceforward known under his name. The accession of Julian brought him back with the rest of the banished bishops, and he made Constantinople the centre for the dissemination of his views.

Somewhere about this period he wrote the work entitled Apologeticus, in twenty-eight chapters, to which Basil replies. The title was at once a parody on the Apologies of defenders of the Faith, and, at the same time, a suggestion that his utterances were not spontaneous, but forced from him by attack. The work is printed in Fabricius, Bibl. Græc. viii.262, and in the appendix to Migne's Basil. Pat. Gr. xxx.837. It is a brief treatise, and occupies only about fifteen columns of Migne's edition. It professes to be a defence of the |simpler creed which is common to all Christians.|

This creed is as follows: |We believe in one God, Father Almighty, of Whom are all things: and in one only-begotten Son of God, God the Word, our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom are all things: and in one Holy Spirit, the Comforter.| But it is in reality like the extant Exposition of the Creed, a reading into this |simpler| creed, in itself orthodox and unobjectionable, of explanations which ran distinctly counter to the traditional and instinctive faith of the Church, and inevitably demanded corrective explanations and definitions.

In the creed of Eunomius the Son is God, and it is not in terms denied that He is of one substance with the Father. But in his doctrinal system there is a practical denial of the Creed; the Son may be styled God, but He is a creature, and therefore, in the strict sense of the term, not God at all, and, at best, a hero or demigod. The Father, unbegotten, stood alone and supreme; the very idea of |begotten| implied posteriority, inferiority, and unlikeness. Against this position Basil protests. The arguments of Eunomius, he urges, are tantamount to an adoption of what was probably an Arian formula, |We believe that ingenerateness is the essence of God,| i.e., we believe that the Only-begotten is essentially unlike the Father. This word |unbegotten,| of which Eunomius and his supporters make so much, what is its real value? Basil admits that it is apparently a convenient term for human intelligence to use; but, he urges, |It is nowhere to be found in Scripture; it is one of the main elements in the Arian blasphemy; it had better be left alone. The word Father' implies all that is meant by Unbegotten,' and has moreover the advantage of suggesting at the same time the idea of the Son. He Who is essentially Father is alone of no other. In this being of no other is involved the sense of Unbegotten.' The title unbegotten' will not be preferred by us to that of Father, unless we wish to make ourselves wiser than the Saviour, Who said, Go and baptize in the name' not of the Unbegotten, but of the Father.'| To the Eunomian contention that the word |Unbegotten| is no mere complimentary title, but required by the strictest necessity, in that it involves the confession of what He is, Basil rejoins that it is only one of many negative terms applied to the Deity, none of which completely expresses the Divine Essence. |There exists no name which embraces the whole nature of God, and is sufficient to declare it; more names than one, and these of very various kinds, each in accordance with its own proper connotation, give a collective idea which may be dim indeed and poor when compared with the whole, but is enough for us.| The word |unbegotten,| like |immortal,| |invisible,| and the like, expresses only negation. |Yet essence is not one of the qualities which are absent, but signifies the very being of God; to reckon this in the same category as the non-existent is to the last degree unreasonable.| Basil |would be quite ready to admit that the essence of God is unbegotten,| but he objects to the statement that the essence and the unbegotten are identical. It is sometimes supposed that the Catholic theologians have been hair-splitters in the sphere of the inconceivable, and that heresy is the exponent of an amiable and reverent vagueness. In the Arian controversy it was Arius himself who dogmatically defined with his negative |There was when He was not,| and Eunomius with his |The essence is the unbegotten.| |What pride! What conceit!| exclaims Basil. |The idea of imagining that one has discovered the very essence of God most high! Assuredly in their magniloquence they quite throw into the shade even Him who said, I will exalt my throne above the stars.' It is not stars, it is not heaven, that they dare to assail. It is in the very essence of the God of all the world that they boast that they make their haunt. Let us question him as to where he acquired comprehension of this essence. Was it from the common notion that all men share? This does indeed suggest to us that there is a God, but not what God is. Was it from the teaching of the Spirit? What teaching? Where found? What says great David, to whom God revealed the hidden secrets of His wisdom? He distinctly asserts the unapproachableness of knowledge of Him in the words, Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.' And Isaiah, who saw the glory of God, what does he tell us concerning the Divine Essence? In his prophecy about the Christ he says, Who shall declare His generation?' And what of Paul, the chosen vessel, in whom Christ spake, who was caught up into the third heaven, who heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful to man to utter? What teaching has he given us of the essence of God? When Paul is investigating the special methods of the work of redemption he seems to grow dizzy before the mysterious maze which he is contemplating, and utters the well-known words, O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!' These things are beyond the reach even of those who have attained the measure of Paul's knowledge. What then is the conceit of those who announce that they know the essence of God! I should very much like to ask them what they have to say about the earth whereon they stand, and whereof they are born. What can they tell us of its essence'? If they can discourse without hesitation of the nature of lowly subjects which lie beneath our feet, we will believe them when they proffer opinions about things which transcend all human intelligence. What is the essence of the earth? How can it be comprehended? Let them tell us whether reason or sense has reached this point! If they say sense, by which of the senses is it comprehended? Sight? Sight perceives colour. Touch? Touch distinguishes hard and soft, hot and cold, and the like; but no idiot would call any of these essence. I need not mention taste or smell, which apprehend respectively savour and scent. Hearing perceives sounds and voices, which have no affinity with earth. They must then say that they have found out the earth's essence by reason. What? In what part of Scripture? A tradition from what saint?

|In a word, if any one wishes to realise the truth of what I am urging, let him ask himself this question; when he wishes to understand anything about God, does he approach the meaning of the unbegotten'? I for my part see that, just us when we extend our thought over the ages that are yet to come, we say that the life bounded by no limit is without end, so is it when we contemplate in thought the ages of the past, and gaze on the infinity of the life of God as we might into some unfathomable ocean. We can conceive of no beginning from which He originated: we perceive that the life of God always transcends the bounds of our intelligence; and so we call that in His life which is without origin, unbegotten. The meaning of the unbegotten is the having no origin from without.| As Eunomius made ingenerateness the essence of the Divine, so, with the object of establishing the contrast between Father and Son, he represented the being begotten to indicate the essence of the Son. God, said Eunomius, being ingenerate, could never admit of generation. This statement, Basil points out, may be understood in either of two ways. It may mean that ingenerate nature cannot be subjected to generation. It may mean that ingenerate nature cannot generate. Eunomius, he says, really means the latter, while he makes converts of the multitude on the lines of the former. Eunomius makes his real meaning evident by what he adds to his dictum, for, after saying |could never admit of generation,| he goes on, |so as to impart His own proper nature to the begotten.| As in relation to the Father, so now in relation to the Son, Basil objects to the term. Why |begotten|? Where did he get this word? From what teaching? From what prophet? Basil nowhere finds the Son called |begotten| in Scripture. We read that the Father begat, but nowhere that the Son was a begotten thing. |Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.| But His name is not begotten thing but |angel of great counsel.| If this word had indicated the essence of the Son, no other word would have been revealed by the Spirit. Why, if God begat, may we not call that which was begotten a thing begotten? It is a terrible thing for us to coin names for Him to Whom God has given a |name which is above every name.| We must not add to or take from what is delivered to us by the Spirit. Things are not made for names, but names for things. Eunomius unhappily was led by distinction of name into distinction of being. If the Son is begotten in the sense in which Eunomius uses the word, He is neither begotten of the essence of God nor begotten from eternity. Eunomius represents the Son as not of the essence of the Father, because begetting is only to be thought of as a sensual act and idea, and therefore is entirely unthinkable in connexion with the being of God. |The essence of God does not admit of begetting; no other essence exists for the Son's begetting; therefore I say that the Son was begotten when non-existent.| Basil rejoins that no analogy can hold between divine generation or begetting and human generation or begetting. |Living beings which are subject to death generate through the operation of the senses: but we must not on this account conceive of God in the same manner; nay, rather shall we be hence guided to the truth that, because corruptible beings operate in this manner, the Incorruptible will operate in an opposite manner.| |All who have even a limited loyalty to truth ought to dismiss all corporeal similitudes. They must be very careful not to sully their conceptions of God by material notions. They must follow the theologies delivered to us by the Holy Ghost. They must shun questions which are little better than conundrums, and admit of a dangerous double meaning. Led by the ray that shines forth from light to the contemplation of the divine generation, they must think of a generation worthy of God, without passion, partition, division, or time. They must conceive of the image of the invisible God not after the analogy of images which are subsequently fashioned by craft to match their archetype, but as of one nature and subsistence with the originating prototype .... This image is not produced by imitation, for the whole nature of the Father is expressed in the Son as on a seal.| |Do not press me with the questions: What is the generation? Of what kind was it? In what manner could it be effected? The manner is ineffable, and wholly beyond the scope of our intelligence; but we shall not on this account throw away the foundation of our faith in Father and Son. If we try to measure everything by our comprehension, and to suppose that what we cannot comprehend by our reasoning is wholly non-existent, farewell to the reward of faith; farewell to the reward of hope! If we only follow what is clear to our reason, how can we be deemed worthy of the blessings in store for the reward of faith in things not seen|?

If not of the essence of God, the Son could not be held to be eternal. |How utterly absurd,| exclaims Basil, |to deny the glory of God to have had brightness; to deny the wisdom of God to have been ever with God!...The Father is of eternity. So also is the Son of eternity, united by generation to the unbegotten nature of the Father. This is not my own statement. I shall prove it by quoting the words of Scripture. Let me cite from the Gospel In the beginning was the Word,' and from the Psalm, other words spoken as in the person of the Father, From the womb before the morning I have begotten them.' Let us put both together, and say, He was, and He was begotten....How absurd to seek for something higher in the case of the unoriginate and the unbegotten! Just as absurd is it to start questions as to time, about priority in the case of Him Who was with the Father from eternity, and between Whom and Him that begat Him there is no interval.|

A dilemma put by Eunomius was the following: When God begat the Son, the Son either was or was not. If He was not, no argument could lie against Eunomius and the Arians. If He was, the position is blasphemous and absurd, for that which is needs no begetting.

To meet this dilemma, Basil drew a distinction between eternity and the being unoriginate. The Eunomians, from the fact of the unoriginateness of the Father being called eternity, maintained that unoriginateness and eternity are identical. Because the Son is not unbegotten they do not even allow Him to be eternal. But there is a wide distinction to be observed in the meaning of the terms. The word unbegotten is predicated of that which has origin of itself, and no cause of its being: the word eternal is predicated of that which is in being beyond all time and age. Wherefore the Son is both not unbegotten and eternal. Eunomius was ready to give great dignity to the Son as a supreme creature. He did not hold the essence of the Son to be common to that of the things created out of nothing. He would give Him as great a preëminence as the Creator has over His own created works. Basil attributes little importance to this concession, and thinks it only leads to confusion and contradiction. If the God of the universe, being unbegotten, necessarily differs from things begotten, and all things begotten have their common hypostasis of the non-existent, what alternative is there to a natural conjunction of all such things? Just as in the one case the unapproachable effects a distinction between the natures, so in the other equality of condition brings them into mutual contact. They say that the Son and all things that came into being under Him are of the non-existent, and so far they make those natures common, and yet they deny that they give Him a nature of the non-existent. For again, as though Eunomius were Lord himself, and able to give to the Only Begotten what rank and dignity he chooses, he goes on to argue, -- We attribute to Him so much supereminence as the Creator must of necessity have over His own creature. He does not say, |We conceive,| or |We are of opinion,| as would be befitting when treating of God, but he says |We attribute,| as though he himself could control the measure of the attribution. And how much supereminence does he give? As much as the Creator must necessarily have over His own creatures. This has not yet reached a statement of difference of substance. Human beings in art surpass their own works, and yet are consubstantial with them, as the potter with his clay, and the shipwright with his timber. For both are alike bodies, subject to sense, and earthy. Eunomius explained the title |Only Begotten| to mean that the Son alone was begotten and created by the Father alone, and therefore was made the most perfect minister. |If,| rejoins Basil, |He does not possess His glory in being perfect God, if it lies only in His being an exact and obedient subordinate, in what does He differ from the ministering spirits who perform the work of their service without blame? Indeed Eunomius joins created' to begotten' with the express object of shewing that there is no distinction between the Son and a creature! And how unworthy a conception of the Father that He should need a servant to do His work! He commanded and they were created.' What service was needed by Him Who creates by His will alone? But in what sense are all things said by us to be through the Son'? In that the divine will, starting from the prime cause, as it were from a source, proceeds to operation through its own image, God the Word.| Basil sees that if the Son is a creature mankind is still without a revelation of the Divine. He sees that Eunomius, |by alienating the Only Begotten from the Father, and altogether cutting Him off from communion with Him, as far as he can, deprives us of the ascent of knowledge which is made through the Son. Our Lord says that all that is the Father's is His. Eunomius states that there is no fellowship between the Father and Him Who is of Him.| If so there is no |brightness| of glory; no |express image of hypostasis.| So Dorner, who freely uses the latter portion of the treatise, |The main point of Basil's opposition to Eunomius is that the word unbegotten is not a name indicative of the essence of God, but only of a condition of existence. The divine essence has other predicates. If every peculiar mode of existence causes a distinction in essence also, then the Son cannot be of the same essence with the Father, because He has a peculiar mode of existence, and the Father another; and men cannot be of the same essence, because each of them represents a different mode of existence. By the names of Father, Son, and Spirit, we do not understand different essences, (ousias), but they are names which distinguish the huparxis of each. All are God, and the Father is no more God than the Son, as one man is no more man than another. Quantitative differences are not reckoned in respect of essence; the question is only of being or non-being. But this does not exclude the idea of a variety in condition in the Father and the Son (heteros hechein), -- the generation of the Latter. The dignity of both is equal. The essence of Begetter and Begotten is identical.

The Fourth Book contains notes on the chief passages of Scripture which were relied on by Arian disputants. Among these are

I Cor. xv.28. On the Subjection of the Son.

|If the Son is subjected to the Father in the Godhead, then He must have been subjected from the beginning, from whence He was God. But if He was not subjected, but shall be subjected, it is in the manhood, as for us, not in the Godhead, as for Himself.|

Philipp. ii.9. On the Name above every Name.

|If the name above every name was given by the Father to the Son, Who was God, and every tongue owned Him Lord, after the incarnation, because of His obedience, then before the incarnation He neither had the name above every name nor was owned by all to be Lord. It follows then that after the incarnation He was greater than before the incarnation, which is absurd.| So of Matt. xxviii.18. |We must understand this of the incarnation, and not of the Godhead.|

John xiv.28. |My Father is Greater than I.|

|Greater' is predicated in bulk, in time, in dignity, in power, or as cause. The Father cannot be called greater than the Son in bulk, for He is incorporeal: nor yet in time, for the Son is Creator of times: nor yet in dignity, for He was not made what He had once not been: nor yet in power, for what things the Father doeth, these also doeth the son likewise': nor as cause, since (the Father) would be similarly greater than He and than we, if He is cause of Him and of us. The words express rather the honour given by the Son to the Father than any depreciation by the speaker; moreover what is greater is not necessarily of a different essence. Man is called greater than man, and horse than horse. If the Father is called greater, it does not immediately follow that He is of another substance. In a word, the comparison lies between beings of one substance, not between those of different substances.

|A man is not properly said to be greater than a brute, than an inanimate thing, but man than man and brute than brute. The Father is therefore of one substance with the Son, even though He be called greater.|

On Matt. xxiv.36. Of Knowledge of that Day and of that Hour.

|If the Son is the Creator of the world, and does not know the time of the judgment, then He does not know what He created. For He said that He was ignorant not of the judgment, but of the time. How can this be otherwise than absurd?

|If the Son has not knowledge of all things whereof the Father has knowledge, then He spake untruly when He said All things that the Father hath are mine' and As the Father knoweth me so know I the Father.' If there is a distinction between knowing the Father and knowing the things that the Father hath, and if, in proportion as every one is greater than what is his, it is greater to know the Father than to know what is His, then the Son, though He knew the greater (for no man knoweth the Father save the Son), did not know the less.

|This is impossible. He was silent concerning the season of the judgment, because it was not expedient for men to hear. Constant expectation kindles a warmer zeal for true religion. The knowledge that a long interval of time was to elapse would have made men more careless about true religion, from the hope of being saved by a subsequent change of life. How could He who had known everything up to this time (for so He said) not know that hour also? If so, the Apostle vainly said In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.'

|If the Holy Spirit, who searcheth the deep things of God,' cannot be ignorant of anything that is God's, then, as they who will not even allow Him to be equal must contend, the Holy Ghost is greater than the Son.|

On Matt. xxvi.39. Father, if it be Possible, let this Cup pass from Me.

|If the Son really said, Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me,' He not only shewed His own cowardice and weakness, but implied that there might be something impossible to the Father. The words if it be possible' are those of one in doubt, and not thoroughly assured that the Father could save Him. How could not He who gave the boon of life to corpses much rather be able to preserve life in the living? Wherefore then did not He Who had raised Lazarus and many of the dead supply life to Himself? Why did He ask life from the Father, saying, in His fear, Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass away from me'? If He was dying unwillingly, He had not yet humbled Himself; He had not yet been made obedient to the Father unto death; He had not given Himself, as the Apostle says, who gave Himself for our sins, a ransom.' If He was dying willingly, what need of the words Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass away'? No: this must not be understood of Himself; it must be understood of those who were on the point of sinning against Him, to prevent them from sinning; when crucified in their behalf He said, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.' We must not understand words spoken in accordance with the oeconomy to be spoken simply.|

On John vi.57. I live by the Father.

|If the Son lives on account of the Father, He lives on account of another, and not of Himself. But He who lives on account of another cannot be Self-life. So He who is holy of grace is not holy of himself. Then the Son did not speak truly when He said, I am the life,' and again the Son quickeneth whom He will.' We must therefore understand the words to be spoken in reference to the incarnation, and not to the Godhead.|

On John v.19. The Son can do Nothing of Himself.

|If freedom of action is better than subjection to control, and a man is free, while the Son of God is subject to control, then the man is better than the Son. This is absurd. And if he who is subject to control cannot create free beings (for he cannot of his own will confer on others what he does not possess himself), then the Saviour, since He made us free, cannot Himself be under the control of any.|

|If the Son could do nothing of Himself, and could only act at the bidding of the Father, He is neither good nor bad. He was not responsible for anything that was done. Consider the absurdity of the position that men should be free agents both of good and evil, while the Son, who is God, should be able to do nothing of His own authority!|

On John xv.1. |I am the Vine.|

|If, say they, the Saviour is a vine, and we are branches, but the Father is husbandman; and if the branches are of one nature with the vine, and the vine is not of one nature with the husbandman; then the Son is of one nature with us, and we are a part of Him, but the Son is not of one nature with, but in all respects of a nature foreign to, the Father, I shall reply to them that He called us branches not of His Godhead, but of His flesh, as the Apostle says, we are the body of Christ, and members in particular,' and again, know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ?' and in other places, as is the earthy, such are they that are earthy; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, let us all bear the image of the heavenly.' If the head of the man is Christ, and the head of Christ is God,' and man is not of one substance with Christ, Who is God (for man is not God), but Christ is of one substance with God (for He is God) therefore God is not the head of Christ in the same sense as Christ is the head of man. The natures of the creature and the creative Godhead do not exactly coincide. God is head of Christ, as Father; Christ is head of us, as Maker. If the will of the Father is that we should believe in His Son (for this is the will of Him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life), the Son is not a Son of will. That we should believe in Him is (an injunction) found with Him, or before Him.|

On Mark x.18. There is none Good, etc.

|If the Saviour is not good, He is necessarily bad. For He is simple, and His character does not admit of any intermediate quality. How can it be otherwise than absurd that the Creator of good should be bad? And if life is good, and the words of the Son are life, as He Himself said, the words which I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life,' in what sense, when He hears one of the Pharisees address Him as good Master does He rejoin, There is none good but One, that is God'? It was not when He had heard no more than good that he said, there is none good,' but when He had heard good Master. He answered as to one tempting Him, as the gospel expresses it, or to one ignorant, that God is good, and not simply a good master.|

On John xvii.5. Father, glorify Me.

|If when the Son asked to be glorified of the Father He was asking in respect of His Godhead, and not of His manhood, He asked for what He did not possess. Therefore the evangelist speaks falsely when he says we beheld His glory'; and the apostle, in the words They would not have crucified the Lord of glory,' and David in the words And the King of glory shall come in.' It is not therefore an increase of glory which he asks. He asks that there may be a manifestation of the oeconomy. Again, if He really asked that the glory which He had before the world might be given Him of the Father, He asked it because He had lost it. He would never have sought to receive that of which He was in possession. But if this was the case, He had lost not only the glory, but also the Godhead. For the glory is inseparable from the Godhead. Therefore, according to Photinus, He was mere man. It is then clear that He spoke these words in accordance with the oeconomy of the manhood, and not through failure in the Godhead.|

On Coloss. i.15. Firstborn of every Creature.

|If before the creation the Son was not a generated being but a created being, He would have been called first created and not firstborn. If, because He is called first begotten of creation He is first created, then because He is called first begotten of the dead He would be the first of the dead who died. If on the other hand He is called first begotten of the dead because of His being the cause of the resurrection from the dead, He is in the same manner called first begotten of creation, because He is the cause of the bringing of the creature from the non existent into being. If His being called first begotten of creation indicates that He came first into being then the Apostle, when he said, all things were created by Him and for Him' ought to have added, And He came into being first of all.' But in saying He is before all things,' he indicated that He exists eternally, while the creature came into being. Is' in the passage in question is in harmony with the words In the beginning was the Word.' It is urged that if the Son is first begotten, He cannot be only begotten, and that there must needs be some other, in comparison with whom He is styled first begotten. Yet, O wise objector, though He is the only Son born of the Virgin Mary, He is called her first born. For it is said, Till she brought forth her first born Son.' There is therefore no need of any brother in comparison with whom He is styled first begotten.

|It might also be said that one who was before all generation was called first begotten, and moreover in respect of them who are begotten of God through the adoption of the Holy Ghost, as Paul says, For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first born among many brethren.'|

On Prov. vii.22. The Lord created Me (LXX.).

|If it is the incarnate Lord who says I am the way,' and No man cometh unto the Father but by me,' it is He Himself Who said, The Lord created me beginning of ways.' The word is also used of the creation and making of a begotten being, as I have created a man through the Lord,' and again He begat sons and daughters,' and so David, Create in me a clean heart, O God,' not asking for another, but for the cleansing of the heart he had. And a new creature is spoken of, not as though another creation came into being, but because the enlightened are established in better works. If the Father created the Son for works, He created Him not on account of Himself, but on account of the works. But that which comes into being on account of something else, and not on its own account, is either a part of that on account of which it came into being, or is inferior. The Saviour will then be either a part of the creature, or inferior to the creature. We must understand the passage of the manhood. And it might be said that Solomon uttered these words of the same wisdom whereof the Apostle makes mention in the passage For after that in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God.' It must moreover be borne in mind that the speaker is not a prophet, but a writer of proverbs. Now proverbs are figures of other things, not the actual things which are uttered. If it was God the Son Who said, The Lord created me,' He would rather have said, The Father created me.' Nowhere did He call Him Lord, but always Father. The word begot,' then, must be understood in reference to God the Son, and the word created, in reference to Him who took on Him the form of a servant. In all these cases we do not mention two, God apart and man apart (for He was One), but in thought we take into account the nature of each. Peter had not two in his mind when he said, Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh.' If, they argue, the Son is a thing begotten and not a thing made, how does Scripture say, Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made that same Jesus, Whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ'? We must also say here that this was spoken according to the flesh about the Son of Man; just as the angel who announced the glad tidings to the shepherds says, To you is born to-day a Saviour, Who is Christ the Lord.' The word to-day' could never be understood of Him Who was before the ages. This is more clearly shewn by what comes afterwards where it is said, That same Jesus whom ye have crucified.' If when the Son was born He was then made wisdom, it is untrue that He was the power of God and the wisdom of God.' His wisdom did not come into being, but existed always. And so, as though of the Father, it is said by David, Be thou, God, my defender,' and again, thou art become my salvation,' and so Paul, Let God be true, but every man a liar.' Thus the Lord of God is made unto us wisdom and sanctification and redemption.' Now when the Father was made defender and true, He was not a thing made; and similarly when the Son was made wisdom and sanctification, He was not a thing made. If it is true that there is one God the Father, it is assuredly also true that there is one Lord Jesus Christ the Saviour. According to them the Saviour is not God nor the Father Lord, and it is written in vain, the Lord said unto my Lord.' False is the statement, Therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee.' False too, The Lord rained from the Lord.' False, God created in the image of God,' and Who is God save the Lord?' and Who is a God save our God.' False the statement of John that the Word was God and the Word was with God;' and the words of Thomas of the Son, my Lord and my God.' The distinctions, then, ought to be referred to creatures and to those who are falsely and not properly called gods, and not to the Father and to the Son.|

On John xvii.3. That they may know Thee, the only true God.

|The true (sing.) is spoken of in contradistinction to the false (pl.). But He is incomparable, because in comparison with all He is in all things superexcellent. When Jeremiah said of the Son, This is our God, and there shall none other be accounted of in comparison with Him,' did he describe Him as greater even than the Father? That the Son also is true God, John himself declares in the Epistle, That we may know the only true God, and we are (in Him that is true, even) in his (true) Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.' It would be wrong, on account of the words There shall none other be accounted of in comparison of Him,' to understand the Son to be greater than the Father; nor must we suppose the Father to be the only true God. Both expressions must be used in connexion with those who are falsely styled, but are not really, gods. In the same way it is said in Deuteronomy, So the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange God with him.' If God is alone invisible and wise, it does not at once follow that He is greater than all in all things. But the God Who is over all is necessarily superior to all. Did the Apostle, when he styled the Saviour God over all, describe Him as greater than the Father? The idea is absurd. The passage in question must be viewed in the same manner. The great God cannot be less than a different God. When the Apostle said of the Son, we look for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ,' did he think of Him as greater than the Father? It is the Son, not the Father, Whose appearance and advent we are waiting for. These terms are thus used without distinction of both the Father and the Son, and no exact nicety is observed in their employment. Being equally with God' is identical with being equal with God. Since the Son thought it not robbery' to be equal with God, how can He be unlike and unequal to God? Jews are nearer true religion than Eunomius. Whenever the Saviour called Himself no more than Son of God, as though it were due to the Son, if He be really Son, to be Himself equal to the Father, they wished, it is said, to stone Him, not only because He was breaking the Sabbath, but because, by saying that God was His own Father, He made Himself equal with God. Therefore, even though Eunomius is unwilling that it should be so, according both to the Apostle and to the Saviour's own words, the Son is equal with the Father.|

On Matt. xx.23. Is not Mine to give, save for whom it is prepared.

|If the Son has not authority over the judgment, and power to benefit some and chastise others, how could He say, The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son'? And in another place, The Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins;' and again, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth;' and to Peter, I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven;' and to the disciples, Verily, I say unto you that ye which have followed me, in the regeneration,...shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.' The explanation is clear from the Scripture, since the Saviour said, Then will I reward every man according to his work;' and in another place, They that have done good shall come forth unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation.' And the Apostle says, We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad.' It is therefore the part of the recipients to make themselves worthy of a seat on the left and on the right of the Lord: it is not the part of Him Who is able to give it, even though the request be unjust.|

On Ps. xviii.31, LXX. Who is God, save the Lord? Who is God save our God?

|It has already been sufficiently demonstrated that the Scriptures employ these expressions and others of a similar character not of the Son, but of the so-called gods who were not really so. I have shewn this from the fact that in both the Old and the New Testament the son is frequently styled both God and Lord. David makes this still clearer when he says, Who is like unto Thee?' and adds, among the gods, O Lord,' and Moses, in the words, So the Lord alone did lead them, and there was no strange god with him.' And yet although, as the Apostle says, the Saviour was with them, They drank of that spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ,' and Jeremiah, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth,...let them perish under the heavens.' The Son is not meant among these, for He is himself Creator of all. It is then the idols and images of the heathen who are meant alike by the preceding passage and by the words, I am the first God and I am the last, and beside me there is no God,' and also, Before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me,' and Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.' None of these passages must be understood as referring to the Son.|

The Fifth Book against Eunomius is on the Holy Spirit, and therefore, even if it were of indubitable genuineness, it would be of comparatively little importance, as the subject is fully discussed in the treatise of his mature life. A reason advanced against its genuineness has been the use concerning the Holy Ghost of the term God. (§ 3.) But it has been replied that the reserve which St. Basil practiced after his elevation to the episcopate was but for a special and temporary purpose. He calls the Spirit God in Ep. VIII. §11. At the time of the publication of the Books against Eunomius there would be no such reason for any |economy| as in 374.

(ii) De Spiritu Sancto. To the illustration and elucidation of this work I have little to add to what is furnished, however inadequately, by the translation and notes in the following pages. The famous treatise of St. Basil was one of several put out about the same time by the champions of the Catholic cause. Amphilochius, to whom it was addressed, was the author of a work which Jerome describes (De Vir. Ill., cxxxiii.) as arguing that He is God Almighty, and to be worshipped. The Ancoratus of Epiphanius was issued in 373 in support of the same doctrine. At about the same time Didymus, the blind master of the catechetical school at Alexandria, wrote a treatise which is extant in St. Jerome's Latin; and of which the work of St. Ambrose, composed in 381, for the Emperor Gratian, is |to a considerable extent an echo.|

So in East and West a vigorous defence was maintained against the Macedonian assault. The Catholic position is exactly defined in the Synodical Letter sent by Damasus to Paulinus of Tyre in 378. Basil died at the crisis of the campaign, and with no bright Pisgah view of the ultimate passage into peace. The generalship was to pass into other hands. There is something of the irony of fate, or of the mystery of Providence, in the fact that the voice condemned by Basil to struggle against the mean din and rattle of Sasima should be the vehicle for impressing on the empire the truths which Basil held dear. Gregory of Sasima was no archiepiscopal success at Constantinople. He was not an administrator or a man of the world. But he was a great divine and orator, and the imperial basilica of the Athanasia rang with outspoken declarations of the same doctrines, which Basil had more cautiously suggested to inevitable inference. The triumph was assured, Gregory was enthroned in St. Sophia, and under Theodosius the Catholic Faith was safe from molestation.

<<  Contents  >>





©2002-2019 SermonIndex.net
Promoting Genuine Biblical Revival.
Privacy Policy